There’s a sense that is being held by many in business that one day soon, everything will return to normal — normal being the world as we experienced it before COVID-19. There’s a vaccine currently being administered around the world. Infections are on the decline. We’re surely almost out of this. But it’s not likely that we’re going back to the way things were any time soon.
Customer needs and consumer priorities have changed, as has the sense of what’s organizationally possible. For instance, some business leaders, prior to the pandemic, would have expected it would take months to execute an across-the-board move to remote work. When the pandemic hit, many made the transition over a weekend.
Restaurants, for example, have had to make major changes in order to stay open. Take Town Hall, a top-grossing restaurant in Ohio, for instance. I talked with owner Bobby George, and he said he saw orders spike through his restaurant’s app that first week of business closures. The app’s technology enabled touchless payments and tracked customers on their way to the restaurant, enabling staff to quickly meet them curbside.
The restaurant also leveraged third-party food delivery services and installed kiosks in-house so that people who wanted to dine in could do so without interacting with waitstaff. George also used the moment to highlight non-GMO and all-organic menu offerings at a time when people were focused on staying as healthy as possible. These steps and others have led not only to success in Cleveland, but also the rapid success of his recently opened Columbus restaurant in the Short North Arts District and plans to open additional locations.
Rather than entrenching and waiting for normal to return, George has leaned into the moment. He’s highlighted his unique products and leveraged technology to thrive in an industry struggling mightily against severe pandemic headwinds, and it’s led to his against-the-odds success.
What I’ve learned from George is that now is not the time to hold back. This moment calls for risk-taking, for seizing opportunities created when competitors failed to act or struggled to adapt. Many of the technologies businesses rushed to in order to survive will persist and help us thrive in whatever the market looks like next year and beyond. The winners won’t be those waiting for the conditions of the past to return. They will be those who are ready for the future.
Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc.